Thursday, May 28, 2015

Same Chevron Shareholder Circus? Look Closer!

Amazon Watch and the True Cost of Chevron network take on Chevron management.

Reposted from Eye on the Amazon

The circus of lies, denial and propaganda videos that has become the Chevron annual shareholder meeting took place at Chevron's San Ramon, California headquarters once again yesterday. Not surprisingly, Chevron's lies about its Ecuador fiasco were recycled from years past – many of which seem to be nearing their expiration date.

As in years past, Amazon Watch was proud to support Humberto Piaguaje, a Secoya leader and coordinator of the Union de Afectados por la Petrolera Texaco (Union of Affected Communities) to confront CEO Watson and the board...again. No one actually expected Watson to treat Humberto or anyone from our team with respect, and he took the opposite approach with an eerie ease. Only in front of an audience of his own board members and executives could Watson get away with so offensively claiming that Humberto himself was being "used," and reject his presentation of the toxic reality in his own community. That wouldn't not stop Humberto from speaking the truth to Watson and the rest of the Chevron executives!

"We know very well the political and economic power that Chevron has, just as we know the magnitude of environmental damage and death to human life caused by your company. You are the criminals – you came, you contaminated, you lost in the courts, and you ran from the law just like any other thief."

But these are all things regular readers of The Eye are no strangers to, continuing to roll out of Chevron's predictable annual playbook as if on cue. And while many things about these meetings do not change from year to year, some important differences live behind the circus show and between lines and lies. Not to be overlooked in 2015:

  • John Watson's handling of the Ecuador issue is losing support even from within the company. In fact, shareholders representing $62 billion dollars of Chevron market value supported the resolution related to the Ecuador case. This is almost $10 billion more than just two years prior.
  • Even though he failed to disclose to his shareholders, Watson's legal woes are likely to get worse. For one, Canada's supreme court will rule any day now as to whether the Ecuadorians can continue enforcement efforts in Canada.
  • The release of "The Chevron Tapes" exposed just how much Watson has been keeping shareholders in the dark. Ten years ago Chevron's own technicians found toxic waste in former Texaco-only well sites, the same sites Chevron's most recent PR videos claim have been fully remediated.
  • Forensic evidence has been released disproving Chevron's allegations that the Ecuador verdict was somehow fraudulent. Worse, it indicates Chevron falsified evidence before a U.S. federal court and coached a paid witness to commit perjury.
  • Chevron's own efforts to have an international tribunal violate the rights of Ecuadorian communities and interfere in the case have backfired when it ruled that Texaco's remediation agreement (proven a sham) did not absolve it from civil litigation.
  • A U.S. federal judge overseeing the appeal of Chevron's retaliatory RICO case recently and embarrassingly called their bluff. Chevron backed itself into a corner stating that it never believed it could get a fair trial in Ecuador - despite arguing for ten years that the case must be moved there. The judge then asked Chevron to submit to a new trial in New York (even wondering aloud if it was in his power to enforce that). I don't have the words to describe the looks on the faces of Chevron's throng of overpaid lawyers when that happened! The last thing Chevron wants is for evidence in Ecuador to be evaluated, so the answer was a hasty and embarrassed "...uh no, Your Honor, we wouldn't agree to that."
  • Despite millions spent on legal intimidation efforts against its critics, the list of organizations and individuals opposing Chevron's activities continues to grow. Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and over 50 other organizations have condemned Chevron's actions related to this case. Bishop Desmond Tutu joined other nobel laureates and public figures calling for Chevron to change its ways and respect the rights of local communities around the globe, and specifically in Ecuador.

A responsible CEO not committed to a strategy of vilification and lies would have at least reported something about these developments to his shareholders. Not so with Watson. His personal commitment to using Chevron's vast resources to crush free speech, buy political power, threaten and intimidate critics and resort to smear tactics has earned Chevron the well deserved label of "world's worst."

Sadly, the most important and disturbing difference between this AGM and years prior is that each day the waste Texaco deliberately dumped decades ago relentlessly leaches more carcinogens into the drinking water of thousands. As a result, more Ecuadorian people continue to contract illnesses and are dying from exposure to Chevron's poison.

When asked by Humberto and by Amazon Watch on multiple occasions to respond to Chevron's responsibility for the suffering of the people of Ecuador – or to the damning new video evidence – Watson merely replied, "nothing you say is true. Let's move on."

Watson's unwillingness to respond with decency and respect demonstrates not only that he has no adequate answers to give in front of the public, but that he sees those suffering in Ecuador as less than human. Whatever allegations Chevron makes about the trial, nothing can erase the fact that Chevron admitted to deliberately dumping toxic waste in the first place, which their own video showed again during the meeting. Watson shows no remorse. They have spun their lies so deep and completely that they now claim that there's absolutely no evidence against them at all in Ecuador. None. Of course you'd be hard pressed to find a single person who has been to Ecuador who truly believes that.

The True Cost of Chevron network maintains that Chevron's actions are contrary to a healthy planet, healthy communities and a just world. Chevron does not need to destroy communities to be a profitable company. It doesn't need to poison democracy in America nor attack the free speech of critics to increase revenue. It does not need to poison water supplies and endanger the lives of children by fracking or deliberately polluting the environment. Those are choices the company makes and John Watson is the heart and voice of such choices.

The people of Richmond faced Chevron's attempts to buy their elections and they defeated the oil giant. The people of Ecuador fought in several courts for decades against Chevron and they won. But just as Chevron will try to corrupt democracy in the next round of elections, it will also use every weapon it has to try to destroy the Ecuadorians and their allies' ability to attain the justice they deserve. When we show up at each shareholder meeting to share our latest advances yet are faced with the same, tired lies, we ensure that arc of the moral universe continues to bend towards justice.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chevron's "Amazon Chernobyl" in Ecuador: The Real Irrefutable Truths About the Company's Toxic Dumping and Fraud

Reposted from the Huffington Post

More than 20 years ago, indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador's Amazon went to court in the United States to seek compensation from Chevron for harm caused by the deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of toxic oil waste on their ancestral lands. I know: I was one of the American lawyers on the original complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan on November 3, 1993.

Since then, the affected communities have not only won their case resoundingly in Chevron's chosen forum of Ecuador – the company agreed to jurisdiction there to avoid a jury trial in the U.S. – but in the process discovered highly disturbing evidence of misconduct by a leading American oil company far worse than anybody could have imagined on that day long ago.

It is this misconduct that Chevron is trying to cover up by launching a demonization and smear campaign against those who held it accountable. Those targeted include myself, the environmental group Amazon Watch, and my longtime Ecuadorian colleague and the lead lawyer on the case, Pablo Fajardo. Among the tools used by Chevron: roughly 2,000 lawyers from at least 60 different law firms and six public relations firms, including the one that carried out the Swift Boat campaign targeting John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential race.

In recent years we have presented persuasive evidence that Chevron filmed its scientists doctoring scientific evidence to defraud Ecuador's courts; had a policy in Ecuador of destroying documents relating to its oil spills; paid an admittedly corrupt witness to lie to a U.S. federal court; executed a sham remediation; and attempted to bribe the Ecuador trial judge to recant his findings against the company. That's in addition to the State Department cables that show Chevron worked with U.S. embassy officials to undermine the lawsuit by offering money to Ecuador's government in exchange for quashing the valid legal claims of the country's citizens.

Part of Chevron's smear campaign against our team is to claim – falsely according to mountains of evidence reviewed by three layers of courts in Ecuador – that the underlying lawsuit is a fraud. That's what Chevron public relations executive Stephen W. Green argued recently in an article posted on The Huffington Post ("Five Irrefutable Truths About the Fraudulent Lawsuit Against Chevron In Ecuador"). We believe that Chevron's allegation in this regard is itself a fraud designed to hide facts in Ecuador proving the company deliberately discharged toxic waste, repeatedly attempted to sabotage the judicial process, and falsified evidence to try to frame those who have played leading roles in what has become a historic battle for justice.

Green claimed that I once said, "If you repeat a lie a thousand times, it becomes the truth." As Green well knows, I made that comment to describe Chevron's litigation strategy – specifically, how the oil company's technicians were misleading courts by lying about the impacts of the contamination. (What I actually said was, "If they [Chevron] repeat a lie a thousand times, it becomes the truth.") The way Green twisted the meaning of this quote into its opposite is a vivid illustration of how the company distorts evidence to attack its adversaries. (For background on Chevron's abuse of the Ecuadorian court process, see this legal brief and this detailed article I recently published on a legal website.)

Chevron has tried for years to use a public relations strategy to demonize its adversaries so it could distract attention from its misconduct. But the underlying facts of Chevron's toxic dumping and the ongoing public health catastrophe created under its watch in Ecuador are the real issues. And most of the related facts are undisputed by Chevron.

Here are the real irrefutable truths about the $9.5 billion legal judgment against Chevron in Ecuador:
  • Ecuador's Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the decision against Chevron based on the company's own scientific evidence. After an eight-year trial that included 105 technical evidentiary reports, Chevron was found guilty in 2011 of dumping billions of gallons of oil waste into the rainforest when it operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992. The court decision relied largely on Chevron's own technical reports and environmental audits to meticulously document extensive and even life-threatening levels of oil contamination at hundreds of the company's former well sites and in rivers and streams relied on by local residents for drinking, bathing and fishing. The system worked as planned: former Chevron executive Rodrigo Perez Pallares openly admitted during the trial that the company contaminated surface waters with at least 15 billion gallons of toxic oil sludge. Cancer rates in the area have predictably skyrocketed. (For more detail about the extensive evidence against Chevron, see here.)

    Chevron's position since the end of the Ecuador trial has further deteriorated. The scientific evidence against the company has been confirmed by multiple independent third party studies, including one by the U.S.-based Louis Berger Group prepared for a parallel arbitration proceeding between Ecuador's government and the Chevron. Much of the scientific evidence has been attested to under oathand summarized powerfully in this power point presentation by Douglas Beltman, a prominent scientist for the affected communities who dropped out of the case after Chevron targeted him with a vicious retaliation campaign that almost led to personal bankruptcy.
  • Given the overwhelming evidence against it, Chevron tried repeatedly to corrupt and sabotage Ecuador's courts: InternalChevron whistleblower videos recently disclosed by Vice News and Amazon Watch show the oil major's technicians finding massive amounts of soil contamination at well sites that the company had previously confirmed as "remediated" to Ecuador's government. The secret videos also show that Chevron engaged in pre-inspections of well sites to construct a ruse to hide its contamination from the court during the later official judicial inspections. Recently, Chevron's claim that the judgment was written by lawyers for the plaintiffs unraveled when a forensic analysis of the trial judge's computers showed he wrote the judgment painstakingly over a period of four months, saving it almost 500 times prior to its issue. During the Ecuador trial, Chevron's legal team threatened the judge with jail time if he did not rule in the company's favor. Company lawyers inundated the court with frivolous and duplicative motions – one time filing 39 in less than an hour – to paralyze the proceedings. A Chevron operative in Ecuador, Diego Borja, boasted on tape that he switched out dirty soil samples for clean ones before presenting them to the court. Chevron also tried to use Borja to entrap the trial judge in a fake bribery scandal. (For background on some of Chevron's attempts to corrupt Ecuador's courts, see this sworn affidavit from Ecuadorian lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz.)
  • Chevron has tried to harass and intimidate those who stand with the Ecuadorian communities in their struggle for justice: Chevron recently tried to cyberbully a respected legal reporter who disclosed forensic evidence suggesting the company's star witness had lied in U.S court in the company's retaliatory "racketeering" case. As part of its attack campaign, Chevron General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate has sued or threatened to sue the lawyers for the affected communities, their financial supporters and even environmental groups that support them. As reported in The Atlantic, Chevron was even caught trying to enlist an American reporter, Mary Cudahee, to engage in corporate espionage against our team in exchange for $20,000. One California court ordered Chevron to pay a fine to Cristobal Bonifaz, a human rights lawyer who formerly represented the Ecuadorian communities, after the company's harassing lawsuit against him – led by outside counsel Scott Edelman – was found to have violated the First Amendment.
  • Chevron's jurisdictional shell game makes a mockery of the rule of law: Chevron is playing a jurisdictional shell game to block resolution of the case. It works like this: first, Chevron successfully moved the case out of U.S. federal court to Ecuador. Once the evidence mounted against it in Ecuador, Chevron sold off its assets there. It then came back to the same U.S. court where it had blocked the original case to seek an injunction blocking the villagers from enforcing their judgment in this country. Blocked from collecting their judgment in either Ecuador or the U.S., the villagers then filed suit in Canada to seize Chevron's assets. Chevron then claimed that its assets in Canada should be off limits because they are owned by a wholly-owned subsidiary called Chevron Canada rather than by Chevron. Since Chevron operates outside the U.S. only through its wholly owned subsidiaries, under the company's legal theory the indigenous communities will never collect the first dollar of their judgment anywhere in the world.
  • A U.S. judge's decision in favor of Chevron is the product of a one-sided proceeding and will command little respect worldwide: A U.S. federal judge (Lewis A. Kaplan) who repeatedly disparaged my clients from the bench found in a non-jury civil trial that I "laundered" money by sending wires from my law firm account to Ecuador to pay for case expenses. He claims I engaged in "extortion" on the theory that there were no damages in Ecuador, when in fact those damages have been confirmed by Ecuador's Supreme Court based on assessments by technical experts. Judge Kaplan also claimed I bribed a judge whom I had never seen, met, or talked to. As the venerable trial lawyer John Keker said when he represented me, Judge Kaplan allowed the proceeding to "degenerate into a Dickensian farce" to favor Chevron. As my appellate brief and sworn testimony make clear, I categorically reject all of Judge Kaplan's findings.
In a decision we still find hard to believe, Judge Kaplan excluded all of the extensive scientific evidence relied on by Ecuador's courts to find Chevron liable. It turned out that he also held undisclosed investments in Chevron during the trial. If Chevron had actual confidence in the validity of its "fraud" evidence, it would not have dropped a $60 billion money damages claim on the eve of trial to avoid a jury of impartial fact finders. (For more background on what we believe were Judge Kaplan's inappropriate comments, see this background document and this legal petition that sought his removal from the case.)

We also believe Chevron was involved in the presentation of false evidence. While in Ecuador, Chevron lawyer Andres Rivero and investigator Yohi Ackerman paid thousands of dollars in cash out of a suitcase to a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra. Guerra later testified falsely that our local legal team wrote the trial court judgment and then gave it to the judge on a flash drive just before it was issued. We know this is false because after Guerra signed a witness contract with Chevron to pay him $2 million in cash and benefits – a contract that included the immigration of Guerra and several family members to the U.S. – his story unraveled. As mentioned, a forensic report from 2014 proved that the judgment was written progressively over a period of several months by the judge himself – and saved hundreds of times during the relevant time period.

As Chevron continues to try to defend the indefensible, support for the affected communities grows stronger. In this country, more than 40 civil society groups – including the Sierra Club, Earth Rights, and Amnesty International – have criticized Chevron for its abusive litigation tactics. Numerous international law scholars from nine countries filed a legal brief in support of the communities. Leading law firms in Canada, Brazil, and the U.S. continue to represent those affected despite Chevron's threats. And in Latin America, diplomatic initiatives from multi-lateral organizations such as CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) are demanding Chevron pay what it owes to the people of Ecuador or face further business obstacles in the region. Chevron CEO John Watson also faces intensifying shareholder dissent over the company's failure to comply with the court orders in Ecuador.

Chevron has been clear about its strategy of designed delay. Its former General Counsel, Charles James, said openly the company would fight the indigenous communities "until hell freezes over, and then fight it out on the ice." In 2009, an internal email from Chevron public relations executive Chris Gidez made it clear that the company's "L-T" strategy was to "demonize Donziger" rather than litigate the case on the merits. The goal is no less than blanket impunity for human rights violations.

Chevron's conduct in Ecuador has been inexcusable for decades. The company should abide by the rule of law and pay for the damage it caused. It should stop trying to attack adversary counsel to distract attention from its own liability. And the company's shareholders – who often celebrate Chevron's profits while turning a blind eye to is perfidy – should stand with the affected villagers and their advocates and demand accountability from company management.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Secoya Leader and Coalition Confront Chevron at Headquarters

Reposted from Eye on the Amazon

Humberto Piaguaje

"We are looking for justice – justice for life, justice for nature and justice for future generations! Chevron says this is fraud, this is no kind of fraud."
– Humberto Piaguaje

Amazon Watch is proud to once again support Humberto Piaguaje, a longtime indigenous partner and courageous leader of the Secoya people in Ecuador, and a growing coalition of communities affected by Chevron's operations in denouncing the company's atrocious pattern of human rights abuses, environmental destruction and attacks on democracy at their annual shareholders meeting tomorrow in San Ramon, CA.

Humberto is no stranger to such a mission – you may even remember his story and the rare grace with which he tells it, a long family lineage and visits past. In 1993 Humberto's uncle Elias Piaguaje first traveled from the Ecuadorian Amazon to New York to represent the Secoya people, joining representatives of other indigenous tribes and campesino communities to file a landmark lawsuit demanding that Texaco – now Chevron – clean up contamination that devastated their rainforest homeland.

In 2011 nearly 18 years after that first visit, Humberto traveled across the U.S. with Amazon Watch, this time carrying with him a historic verdict from an Ecuadorian court finding Chevron guilty, and ordering the company to pay to clean up its toxic legacy.

Humberto, who is also the coordinator and official spokesperson of the Union of Affected Communities (Union de Afectados por la Petrolera Texaco/UDAPT), returns to California where tomorrow he will enter Chevron's annual meeting as a shareholder with a proxy. Once in, he plans to raise the issue of a new forensic report that proves Chevron's star witness lied under oath and divulge explosive internal company videos that suggest that Chevron scientists tried to defraud Ecuador's courts to evade a court-mandated clean-up of oil contamination that has afflicted Ecuador's rainforest for decades.

With evidence mounting that Chevron falsified evidence to evade paying a $9.5 billion pollution liability in Ecuador, Chevron CEO John Watson faces an embarrassing public reprimand as Humberto confronts top management with proof that the company has gone rogue in the long-running litigation.

Three layers of courts in Chevron's chosen forum of Ecuador, including the nation's Supreme Court, have affirmed that the oil giant is responsible for damage caused by roughly 1,000 toxic waste pits and 400 well sites abandoned when the company (operating as Texaco) left Ecuador in 1992 after 28 years of operations. Chevron refuses to pay to clean up the sites despite promising to comply with the Ecuador judgment as a condition of moving the matter from U.S. federal court in 2001.

"I'm here again after four years. And while this long fight goes on, the Secoya people in our territory continue dying," Humberto told us today at a press conference in San Francisco. "Our struggle for justice has gone for 21 years and 6 months now; this has been very costly for us."

"We are looking for justice – justice for life, justice for nature and justice for future generations," he went on. "Chevron says this is fraud, this is no kind of fraud."

Issues that Humberto plans to raise with Watson and the Chevron's Board of Directors at the annual meeting tomorrow include the following:

  • An explosive new forensic report by computer expert J. Christopher Racich that proves Chevron lawyers falsified evidence to try to frame lawyers for the indigenous groups by claiming they wrote the trial court judgment when in fact it was written by the judge.
  • Chevron's refusal to pay for the court-mandated clean-up. Residents of the area where Chevron operated suffer from high cancer rates and other oil-related health problems, including a spate of spontaneous miscarriages.
  • Chevron's efforts to try to block judgment enforcement actions in Canada and Brazil. Piaguaje and his fellow community leaders have targeted Chevron in both countries to seize company assets to pay for their clean-up – but Chevron now claims for technical reasons that its wholly-owned subsidiaries cannot be sued.
  • Secret internal company videos recently released by Vice News and Amazon Watch that show Chevron scientists laughing at pollution and trying to create an elaborate ruse to deceive Ecuador's courts by only finding "clean" soil during judicially-supervised inspections of well sites.
  • A letter of support signed by dozens of prominent citizens, including three Nobel Peace Prize winners. Among those signing: Archbishop Desmond Tutu; the musician Roger Waters; the Argentinian Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who in 1980 won the Nobel for his defense of human rights during his country's "dirty war"; and William McKibbon, the founder of the climate change group

Background and more info on tomorrow's actions on ChevronToxico.

Bay Area! JOIN US tomorrow May 27th at Chevron's Annual Shareholder meeting as we take our demands to Chevron's doorstep and stand in solidarity with shareholders calling for a change in Chevron's culture of deception, corruption and destruction.

May 27th, 2015 @ 7 am
Chevron's HQ in San Ramon, CA

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Chevron's "Ghostwriting" Charge Unraveling in Ecuador Pollution Case

Reposted from the Huffington Post

Will U.S. Appellate Court Consider New Evidence Or Close Its Eyes?

Chevron's "ghostwriting" charge against Ecuadorian villagers and their attorneys, who together have held the oil giant accountable for toxic dumping in the Amazon rainforest, is unraveling.

In the unraveling is a string of "missing" serial numbers on USB drives or flash drives that Chevron's lawyers and forensic experts have failed to produce.

Before I explain, though, let me set the scene.

The Ecuadorian villagers, who two decades ago sued Chevron for intentionally contaminating their ancestral lands in the Amazon rainforest, have obtained a game-changing forensic report that blows apart Chevron's fake narrative that it was the victim of a fraud.

This report, explained by Courthouse News, concluded that Chevron's explosive charge that lawyers for the villagers "ghostwrote" a $9.5 billion Ecuador judgment against Chevron is a crock.

I say "game-changing" because the forensic report -- by J. Christopher Racich, one of the leading experts in the field of computer forensics -- will be used by the villagers in enforcement courts in Canada, Brazil and possibly other countries to prove the judgment is valid and Chevron has been falsifying evidence.

Arrogantly, Chevron has refused to pay the $9.5 billion to clean up its toxic mess, forcing the Ecuadorians to try to seize company assets in other countries. Chevron previously sold off all of its assets in Ecuador to make itself judgment proof even though it insisted the trial be conducted in the courts of the South American country.

This new forensic analysis found that the 188-page Ecuador judgment was written gradually over a four-month period, from October 2010 to February 2011, when the Ecuador court issued the ruling. (See the 20-page report here.) Importantly, the report also found no evidence "that a litigation document was transferred to (the judge's) computers while he was drafting the judgment." (Racich reviewed the hard drives of the two computers used by the Ecuador judge to write the judgment against Chevron.)

After losing the case in its chosen forum of Ecuador, Chevron filed a retaliatory "racketeering" lawsuit against the villagers and their lawyers in the U.S. in a last-ditch attempt to try to block enforcement of the judgment. (See my previous blogs for more details about the history of the case.) This new recent forensic analysis was conducted after that trial for a separate but related arbitration claim filed by Chevron against the Government of Ecuador.

This finding could be the most important one in this seemingly never-ending litigation.

That's because Chevron General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate and his top lawyer, Randy Mastro of the controversial law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher (which recently was found by the High Court of England to have falsified evidence in another case), hoped the forensic analysis would corroborate testimony by their discredited witness, Alberto Guerra.

Chevron Lawyer Randy Mastro

Chevron's Discredited Witness Alberto Guerra

Chevron has paid Guerra an estimated $2 million in cash and benefits and moved him and his family to the U.S., apparently in exchange for his testimony. The former Ecuador judge is an admitted criminal; he testified under oath to taking numerous bribes before he was removed from the bench. See here.

After being coached for 53 straight days by Chevron's lawyers, Guerra testified in a U.S. court that one of the Ecuadorians' lawyers gave the Ecuador judgment to Judge Nicolas Zambrano in late January 2011, just days before the judgment was issued. Racich found no evidence that this occurred.

Meanwhile, neither Chevron nor the arbitration panel hearing the company's claim that it has not been treated fairly in Ecuador's court system has released Chevron's own forensic analysis of the judge's computers conducted by Spencer Lynch of the New York-based digital firm Stroz Friedberg. From various legal motions filed in the arbitration and the Racich report, though, we know this:

Chevron expert Lynch agrees with Racich that no evidence exists that documents having to do with the judgment were transferred to Zambrano's computers during the period of time that he was writing the judgment between October 2010 and February 2011, directly contradicting Guerra's testimony.

However, here is where the plot thickens.

The 32-year-old up and coming Stroz Friedberg examiner, based in London and schooled at Duke University, claims that five USBs he obtained from Guerra were connected to Zambrano's computers.

The only problem is that nothing -- as in zero -- has been found on Guerra's computer that resembles the judgment, even though he testified at one point the judgment was on his computer. (We note that Guerra and Zambrano served on the same court at one time and it would not have been unusual for them to share documents.)

And, finally, the Chevron bombshell:

Lynch did not provide the serial numbers of the five USBs.

Now, forensic experts never forget to write down the serial numbers of flash drives. That would be like a police officer forgetting to write down the tag number of a speeding car he's stopped.

Here's what Racich had to say about Lynch's missing serial numbers.

"Because the serial numbers were not recorded by (Chevron's) forensic examiners from Mr. Guerra's original USB devices (a standard and fundamental step during imaging of any Computer equipment), no forensic examiner can conclude with a degree of scientific certainty that the images currently in our possession are of the USB devices that were attached to Mr. Zambrano's computers....

"In a forensic case involving the acquisition of electronic data, it is highly unusual that these serial numbers were not recorded -- Stroz Friedberg recorded them for all other devices they imaged from Mr. Guerra .... Without this information, Mr. Lynch is merely speculating that the USB images taken from Mr. Guerra's USB devices that we have both examined are in fact the same USB devices that were attached to Mr. Zambrano's computers."

Forgot the serial numbers? Mistake? Not a chance. Holding back the serial numbers allows Chevron's lawyers to do nothing but sow seeds of doubt when, in truth, they have nothing but bad news in their own forensic analysis.

During the recent oral argument in the appeal of the "fraud" charges, Judge Richard Wesley of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit indicated a "dispute" existed among the three judges on whether they could consider the Racich report in the appeal. Significantly, the lower court judge in that extremely problematic case did not have the Racich report.

I realize that sometimes evidence obtained after a trial cannot always be used in an appeal, but we are talking about delaying and possibly denying justice to tens of thousands of Ecuadorians because they could not afford the costs to do the same forensic analysis prior to the "fraud" trial and Chevron could afford to pay a witness up to $2 million.

We also are talking about the reputation of human rights lawyers Steven Donziger* and Pablo Fajardo, who should have a legal path of some sort to clearing their names.

I don't know about you, but I will take the word of a highly-respected American forensic expert with a stellar reputation over a self-confessed corrupt judge who's been paid a king's ransom by an oil company trying to evade responsibility for its contamination.

PS: If Stroz Friedberg sounds familiar to you, it's because that's the firm Chevron lawyer Mastro hired to conduct a forensic analysis of the State of New Jersey's computers, used by Governor Chris Christie and his entourage of political appointees involved in Bridgegate.

Mastro's "independent" and "exhaustive" review of Bridgegate produced no incriminating findings.

Meanwhile, indictments against the Governor's political staff have been handed down by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Chevron Targets Journalist With Cyberattacks for Exposing Wrongdoing in Ecuador Case

Reposted from The Chevron Pit

Chevron is trying to cyberbully a prominent American legal reporter as retaliation for his accurate and detailed coverage of the oil giant's recent courtroom setbacks in the Ecuador pollution case.

The attacks against 34-year-old journalist Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News appear to be part of a wider company strategy to intimidate journalists, environmental advocates, and supporters of Ecuadorian indigenous and farmer communities who have held Chevron accountable in court for its admitted practice of discharging billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest. For background on the case against Chevron and the company's retaliation campaign, see this summary of the evidence, this article from Rolling Stone, and this overview of Chevron's crimes and fraud in Ecuador from Steven Donziger, the longtime U.S. legal advisor to the affected villagers.

The latest installment of Chevron's intimidation model – the one against Klasfeld – is being orchestrated by CRC Public relations with headquarters in Arlington, Virgina. That's the same outfit that ran the "Swift Boat for Truth" campaign questioning John Kerry's patriotism when he was the Democratic nominee during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Klasfeld has written several articles in recent weeks on developments in the two-decade litigation that run counter to Chevron's narrative that it was the victim of fraud in Ecuador. One can access these articles via the search option at the website of Courthouse News; we link to some of the most important ones in this post.

The "Swift Boat" effort not only grievously damaged Kerry's prospects, but is widely seen as one of the most dishonest smear campaigns in history. That Chevron would hire CRC for any purpose shows the lengths to which the company will go to wield its muscle against its perceived enemies.

Also working on behalf of Chevron to target Klasfeld is Sam Singer of Singer Associates, a longtime Chevron public relations "crisis communication" firm in San Francisco. Singer has been known to secretly pay supposedly independent bloggers to parrot Chevron's public relations talking points on the litigation, among many other unethical activities. See this report from the San Fransico Weekly ("Trust Me: Who Are You Gonna Believe, Sam Singer or Your Own Eyes?") for background on how he has tried to help Chevron elect hand-picked candidates in a California town where a recent fire at the company's refinery forced 15,000 people to seek medical attention.

In recent weeks, several employees of CRC and Singer Associates went after Klasfeld on Twitter after he reported details of an explosive new forensic report that blows up Chevron's defense to the Ecuador judgment. The report was written by a noted American computer forensic expert (J. Christopher Racich) who examined the hard drives of Ecuadorian trial judge Nicolas Zambrano and found the Word document that became the 188-page judgment against Chevron was saved hundreds of times on his office computer over a four-month period. For Klasfeld's story on the new report, see here.

Chevron is in a serious jam because in 2013 it had paid a corrupt Ecuadorian witness, Alberto Guerra, roughly $2 million in cash and benefits and moved his entire family to the U.S. so he would testify falsely in U.S. court that the plaintiffs wrote the judgment and gave it to the trial judge on a flash drive just before it was issued. The Racich report is simply another layer of proof on top of the already evidence demonstrating that Guerra is a liar. (For background on how Chevron lawyer Andres Rivero paid Guerra cash out of a suitcase to get him to become a paid witness for the company, see here.)

The specific details of the cyberbullying are outlined in an article for Courthouse News by Klasfeld titled "The Truth Can Be Adjusted" in reference to the movie Michael Clayton.

As Klasfeld wrote,

Courthouse News blew the lid on a secret forensic analysis of the computer hard drives of Ecuadorean Judge Nicolas Zambrano, whose name appears on a $9.8 billion judgment against Chevron, and to date nobody has suggested this article is inaccurate.

Although Chevron has long alleged that lawyers for Ecuadorian villagers secretly wrote the verdict against it, the article revealed what have now become undisputed facts.

The data on Zambrano's computers includes a Microsoft Word document that appears to be a running draft of the judgment. This document was saved "hundreds" of times on both of the computers over four months, and the author names of the supposed ghostwriters do not appear in any files or emails on the hard drives.

The reason for the anger of Chevron's management team at Klasfeld is understandable – its defense to the underlying environmental case is falling apart after the company spent an estimated $2 billion to hire 60 law firms and 2,000 legal personnel to fend off the villagers. Chevron's top brass does not want that failure exposed. But the targeting of a journalist who reports it is inexcusable.

It is worth noting that CRC Public Relations is headed by political and corporate attack specialist Greg Mueller, whose Twitter account was one of those used to target Klasfeld. Mueller is the proud Bad Boy of the Republican Right and he makes millions in fees playing the part.

CRC was involved in a campaign to torpedo the nomination of Sonya Sotomayor, the first Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the force behind a series of vicious attack ads targeting supporters of ObamaCare. The company also has close ties to the the Virginia-based Media Research Center, a shadowy non-profit used by corporations to tar journalists who write about climate change and other topics considered unfriendly to the interests of CRC's clients.

Another source of agita in the Chevron camp is that its retaliatory "racketeering" case in the U.S. against the affected villagers and their lawyers has not stopped lawsuits targeting the company's assets in Canada and Brazil. The judgment in Ecuador was confirmed by eight separate appellate judges in the court system where Chevron insisted the trial be held. Further, Chevron is going to have major problems trying to use its star witness Guerra to block enforcement actions given his utter lack of credibility.

Klasfeld's apparent "sin" in Chevron's eyes is that he reported a key development that the company prefers to keep hidden. While at times we have disagreed with his reporting, Klasfeld clearly has guts. That's far more than one can say about other legal reporters like Michael Goldhaber of American Lawyer and Fortune's Roger Parloff who seem wedded to the oil giant's narrative and have yet to write about the new forensic report. (For more on the bias in Parloff's reporting, see here. For details of Goldhaber's tilt toward Chevron, see here.)

That Chevron is responsible for the ecological calamity in Ecuador known as the Amazon Chernobyl is beyond dispute. Not only has the disaster been confirmed by dozens of independent journalists who have visited the country, during the eight-year trial in Ecuador a Chevron executive admitted the company (operating as Texaco) discharged billions of gallons of oil waste into streams and rivers relied on by local residents for their drinking water. The dumping decimated indigenous groups and caused an outbreak of cancer that has killed numerous people and has been confirmed by independent peer-reviewed health evaluations.

Despite clear evidence that the story about the "ghostwriting" of the judgment is false, Chevron CEO John Watson and General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate continue to push it in their public statements. The new report by Mr. Racich has not caused these men to walk back even an inch from their claims. That is itself evidence of an intent by Chevron to mislead shareholders and the financial markets about the risk faced by the company.

Klasfeld no doubt also bothered Chevron when he pressed to gain access to a secret investor arbitration proceeding where the oil giant – in what can only be described as act of sheer chutzpah – is pushing for a taxpayer-funded bailout (by Ecuadorian citizens) of its pollution liability in the rainforest. That investor arbitration proceeding, which bars journalists and the public as well as the lawyers for the Ecuadorian communities, has been subject to withering criticism for violating due process and fundamental principles of international law.

Klasfeld is not alone in being attacked by a corporate polluter that acts as if it is above accountability.

The list of journalists who have been targeted by Chevron for reporting on the impact of its pump-and-dump operation in Ecuador is getting longer. They include the award-winning writer William Langewiesche of Vanity Fair, who in 2007 published a fascinating story about lead Ecuadorian lawyer Pablo Fajardo. They also include 60 Minutes, which in a 2009 report exposed part of Chevron's deceit in Ecuador. There are many others we know about whose articles were deep-sixed under Chevron pressure during the editing process.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press should investigate Chevron for its intimidation campaign against independent journalists. In the meantime, Klasfeld and Courthouse News deserve kudos for reporting on Chevron's misdeeds without fear or favor.